After having to deal with a most irritable and tiresome summer, the monsoons in Kerala have brought in the much-needed respite. While it has brought a cheer to many, for sporting enthusiasts like me, this weather proved to be ideal for something more fun filled, adventurous and, wait, healthy too.
I was grateful for being granted a weekend off on a perfect rainy day. Then again, for me, weekends were never about sitting on the couch, with my feet up sipping a cup of coffee while listening to the rhythm of the rain. So off I went at the first chance I got to explore Kochi in the monsoons. My friend Tom had decided to give me a taste of what it means to own something eco-friendly and mighty useful in the city. A bicycle. Kicking off the most anticipated 'monsoon cycle ride.'
For cyclists like my friend Tom, fitness is perhaps the least important aspect of cycling. Most cycling enthusiasts deem this to be a wonderful activity that lets you socialize, test your limits, and more than anything, have fun.
As we began riding through Panampilly Nagar towards Thevara, Tom decided to document the adventure for we weren't too sure of where we would be heading! Yes, we knew where we had to begin and finish, but the rest remained a mystery. A novice in the area of geared bicycles, my friend began explaining the mechanics behind some of the day's finest bicycles and the reasons for shifting gears.
We were soon cycling past one of Thevara's most prominent landmarks – The Sacred Heart College. Established in the year 1944, this college overlooks the Vembanad lake. A few deviations and narrow lanes had led to a most serene sight. Indeed, we decided to take a quick break at a less populated fishing zone situated close to Kudanoor Junction. The journey had continued for another twenty minutes.
Upon reaching the next junction at Thevara, we decided to cycle towards the docks to catch the ferry. Tom and I hopped on the first ferry that we had spotted along with our cycles. The boat had halted at Maradu, and we began cycling through the lanes that neither of us knew existed before. Maradu is a municipal corporation situated about four kilometres from Kochi's cultural capital,Thrippunithra. Then again, the route we discovered was among those that were less traveled by.
The rains were instrumental in assuring us of a clear path most of the way. As we cycled, we went past a railway over-bridge, the sight of which could literally make one go green with envy. Another 10 minutes into the ride and we had reached a staircase. Confused? That is what happens when you discover a bridge whose ends are too far away to see with the naked eye. This did not deter us. Tom and I carried our bicycles up two flights of stairs to get our bearings. To our surprise, we were back on the Kundanoor-Thevara bridge, situated about 1000 metres away from the Thevara junction.
The ride had reached its final lap. As we headed toward the finishing point, I realized what it meant to ride a bicycle during peak traffic hours as well as the appreciate the gift of 'Thattukadas' that offer you the best onion 'vadas'- hot and fresh. Most of all, it was an activity that took me back in time when I would cycle to school regularly. Cycling has several health benefits. But the USP of the drill was the sense of satisfaction and peace that you experience. Let us face it – cycles are the most cost effective modes of transportation. It involves no fuel expenses and you could always use the narrow lanes or 'gallis.' Thus, saving a lot of time.
Here are a few tips that one ought to remember before riding in the rains:
a) Wear light clothing. But most of all, avoid wearing full-length track suits, jeans, salwars or even pyjamas the cloth might get entangled in the cycle chain. Three-fourth pants, a pair of tights or even sports shorts are ideal for monsoon cycling.
b) Shoes are the most preferred footwear in such activities. However, it is the monsoon, so you could consider wearing a good and sturdy pair of floaters ONLY if you are comfortable doing so.
c) Yes, we forgot our helmets. But always wear one. Traffic jams only worsen in the rains. Not to mention the uneven yet unpredictable conditions of the roads.
d) Ensure that you have a good bicycle. Your cycle should not give up on you at any point of time during the ride. Check your gears, breaks and seats before venturing out on the bike ride.
e) Ensure that the frame of the bicycle is proportionate to your height. Unlike a car, bicycles require one to halt often for which you would have to put your foot on the ground. A cycle with an inappropriate frame can be dangerous if one were to cycle on a busy road.
f) It is advised that you cycle in pairs or groups especially if it is for a longer distance. That way, you would always have a helping hand.
g) Carry a water-proof camera to document interesting footage.
Most of all, enjoy the ride. Do not worry too much about getting drenched or dirty. For it is rare to see greenery amidst the hustle and bustle of Kochi's city life.
So, would you like to cycle around Kochi?